Emory Report

January 10, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 16

As expected, all is Y2-OK for Emory

As with nearly all the rest of the country and the world, the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 2000, passed without technological disruptions or fanfare at Emory--and that was just fine with those charged with ushering the University through the Y2K veil of the unknown.

"It was pretty boring," said Byron Nash, Year 2000 project manager for Information Technology Division, said of his New Year's Eve. "We came in about 9 [p.m.] and were out of here by 2 [a.m.]. We just checked everything before [midnight] and everything after, to make sure it would be available, and it was there. So we went home and enjoyed the rest of the weekend."

A similarly uneventful turn of the millenium was reported by Ron Palmich, chief information officer for Emory Healthcare, who oversaw the Y2K preparations for Health Sciences. "We had no biomedical failures, no infrastructure failures, and to our knowledge we have had only a handful of minor nuisances," Palmich said, adding that the problems "were not related to mission-critical kinds of services."

Both Nash and Palmich had teams of employees on duty at the moment of truth, monitoring University systems to make sure they handled the rollover without difficulty. Countless tests had been run on the various systems and networks that handle Emory services, both academic and medical, but no test could simulate the simultaneous date change that occurred at the real stroke of midnight. Both men said the changeover went even more smoothly than they expected.

"It probably is better [than I expected], because we've only had one problem and we're three days into it," Palmich said on Jan. 3, the first business day of the new year. I believe there will be a limited number of situations where something didn't get thoroughly checked out; through the course of the month, there will be a little thing here, a little thing there, that for some reason never get caught, but right now there's only been one."

Indeed, Palmich said he has already dismantled Emory Healthcare's Y2K command center and will handle any subsequent calls or questions through normal support procedures. ITD has set up a Y2K referral line (404-712-2000) but Nash said, as of Jan. 4, only three calls had been received, none of which turned out to be a Y2K problem.

Nash added that ITD will probably scale back the referral line's 24-hour service, at least until the students return from winter break, when the line will again operate round the clock to make sure student services are functional. After that, he said the only remaining dates of real concern are the month-end cycles for January, the leap year day of Feb. 29 and the fiscal year-end cycles at the end of August and beginning of September. "At that point, we'll probably deal with instances as normal production," Nash said.

So why did such a supposed mega-event turn out, in fact, to be nearly a non-event? Nash said it was a combination of thorough preparation and too much doomsday hype by the media. Palmich said overanxious Y2K consultants, accompanied by fears of possible litigation, also contributed to the worldwide paranoia. At the core of Y2K was a legitimate concern, but some of the apocalyptic visions bordered on the truly ridiculous.

"Some of the things the media came up with-planes falling out of the sky and such-were hype and overblown," Nash said. "But I think some of the hype helped keep the pressure on the information technology community to make sure this went real well. The problem was not so hard to fix; it's just there were so many things to go through."

--Michael Terrazas

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